Milocca’s Charlotte Gower Chapman
Sam Migliore, Margaret Dorazio-Migliore, and Vincenzo Ingrascì
Although there are exceptions, the history of sociocultural
has been traced through (1)
a list of prominent individuals who have
made significant theoretical, methodological, and ethnographic
to the discipline; (2)
a critical discussion of the development of one
or more theoretical orientations, or schools of thought, linked
or indirectly with the ideas of certain key thinkers; and (3)
of anthropological biographies, autobiographies, and related life
documents (see, for example, Darnell 1990;
What this process has led
to is the creation and establishment of a line of disciplinary
individuals who become well known within—and sometimes outside—
the discipline, and whose ideas are frequently discussed and cited in
anthropological literature. In the process, however, these "canonical"
figures (to quote Stocking 2001:331)
tend to overshadow many of their
contemporaries. Many of the "lesser known" scholars, as a
relegated to the status of footnotes in the history of anthropology, or
In 2000 Richard
Handler published an edited volume titled Excluded
Ancestors, Inventible Traditions.
The articles in this volume bring to light
the work and achievements of a number of these "lesser known"
(and anthropological traditions). They also raise "questions
about the processes of inclusion and exclusion that, over time, do much
to constitute ‘the history of anthropology’" (Handler 2000a:8).
article deals specifically with the work of Charlotte
Day Gower (who later became Charlotte Gower Chapman), and some
of the problems Gower experienced in her attempts to establish herself
in a career in anthropology.1 Our
aim is to build on Lepowsky’s presentation
to focus on Gower Chapman’s work in south-central Sicily, and
to examine her place in both the discipline of anthropology and
rural life and history. Although specific anthropologists may, for a
Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 111
ety of reasons, virtually disappear from "anthropological memory,"
can have a significantly different, albeit ambiguous, fate in the
where they conducted their research. This is the key theme we address
in this chapter.
The Making of an Anthropologist
Charlotte Day Gower was "born in Kankakee, Illinois, a small city
60 miles south of
Chicago," on May 5,
passed away as a result of a heart attack at the age of eighty, on
in Washington DC ("Obituary—Charlotte Chapman" 1982;
During this eighty-year period, her life and career
were marked by a number of changes and accomplishments.
Gower majored in psychology at Smith College, receiving her bachelor’s
degree in 1922 (Lepowsky
Her intent, at the time, was
to pursue a medical career (King and Patterson 1991:105).
Smith College, however, she completed a course in anthropology with
Harris Hawthorne Wilder (Lepowsky 2000:127).
The course stimulated
Gower’s interest in anthropology. In 1923,
with Wilder’s support, she
published a paper dealing with the morphology of the apertura
(nasal aperture) in modern humans. Although written very early
in her anthropology career, the article has been cited in a number of
publications (e.g., Weinberg et al. 2005).
Some scholars, as can be
expected, simply make use of the work as a historical document. A
of scholars, in contrast, go beyond this to actually make use of
aspects of the nomenclature and coding protocols Gower developed
in the article (e.g., Franciscus 2003:712).
A year later, Gower enrolled in the MA in Anthropology program at
the University of Chicago (Anonymous 1983:3).
At Chicago she was
exposed to the ideas of Fay-Cooper Cole, Edward Sapir and, through
them, to both the Boasian tradition in anthropology and some of the
innovative ideas being developed in the Chicago School of Sociology
Schusky and Eggan 1989;
one of Gower’s strongest supporters during her stay at the University
Chicago, and for some time later.
Charlotte Gower was awarded a master’s degree in 1926
for her thesis
"The Origin and Spread of Antillean Culture" (Anonymous 1983:3).
The following year, with the aid of a subvention from the Central
branch of the American Anthropological Association, she was able to
publish the thesis as Memoir
the AAA (Isaac 2001).
focused on both archaeological and ethnological material in examining
the role of the Caribbean in the diffusion of cultural traits between
112 Living Memory
North, Central, and South America. Although the focus on diffusion and
trait distribution would soon become outdated, the publication did have
limited success. A number of scholars, for example, have made reference
to the work over the years (e.g., Rouse 1947;
Gower’s work served as the spark that ignited Cornelius Osgood’s
interest in Caribbean studies. In fact, according to Irving Rouse, the
Caribbean Anthropological program Osgood helped establish at Yale
University developed directly out of Gower’s thesis (Siegel 1996:682).
Immediately following the completion of her master’s degree, Gower
entered the PhD in Anthropology program at the University of Chicago.
For the dissertation, Gower conducted research among Sicilians in the
Chicago area "under the auspices of the Behavior Research Fund of
the Institute for Juvenile Research, Chicago, Illinois" (Gower 1928:2).
She focused on the role of religion and patron saints in Sicilian life.
project, however, cannot be labeled a community study. Gower did not
study a specific immigrant group in a particular neighborhood of the
city. Instead, she worked with a relatively small number of individuals
residing in different neighborhoods of Chicago, and originating from
different communities and regions in Sicily (see Gower 1928:94–95).
"Nor was [the] dissertation . . . a modernist ethnographic work
on participant observation. It was a work of Sicilian memory
focused on the "reconstruction
of a portion of Sicilian culture from the accounts of people already in
[the United States], and literary sources"—such as the work of
folklorist Giuseppe Pitrè.
the University of Chicago awarded two PhDs in anthropology—
one to Robert Redfield, for his study of peasant life in Tepoztlán,
the other to Charlotte Gower for her dissertation, "The
Supernatural Patron in Sicilian Life." Gower was "the first
receive a Ph.D. in anthropology at Chicago" (Rowe 1978:653).
also one of the very few cultural anthropologists in the United States
receive a PhD for work that addressed Mediterranean or Near Eastern
themes between 1911 and
seemed to be well on her way to becoming a prominent anthropologist.
Although a young scholar, she had managed to establish a good record
of achievement. In addition to acquiring the necessary educational
Gower, for example, had also (1)
become a published author;
participated in, and presented papers at, scholarly conferences; (3)
started to perform administrative duties for the Central States branch
of the AAA; and (4)
received, along with Ruth Bunzel and Margaret
Mead, one of only three prestigious Social Science Research Council
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 113
Fellowships awarded to anthropologists in 1928–29
1928; Fox 1928,
Gray and Gower 1928;
"By the time her degree was awarded, in
October of 1928,
Gower was indeed already in Sicily" conducting research
Fieldwork in Sicily
Sicily, due to its strategic location at the center of the
Sea, has attracted travelers and invaders for thousands of years. As a
result, Sicilian history has been characterized by successive waves of
invasion, domination, and sometimes exploitation. With the arrival
of the Greeks in the eighth century BC much of the island became
(Smith and Serrati 2001;
De Angelis 2003).
Since that time, Sicily
has come under the control or influence of various peoples, including
Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spaniards, Austrians, and—
more recently—northern Italians (Smith and Serrati 2001;
Sicily officially became an integral part of the newly
united Italian state in 1861.
The extended period of foreign domination and exploitation created
various social and economic problems for the region. This state of
affairs reached severe proportions during, and immediately after, the
Italian unification period (Mack Smith 1997;
policies of the new government favored the northern regions of Italy.
Unification did not improve conditions in the south. In response to
adverse economic and social conditions, many Sicilians chose
Initially people migrated to northern Italy and other European
nations. The pattern changed in the early 1900s,
as Sicilians began to
travel to overseas destinations such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and
the United States: "By 1914
there were five to six million
abroad as compared with thirty-five million inside Italy" (Mack
The vast majority of these individuals migrated or emigrated
from southern Italy and Sicily. It is ironic that the island that
many foreign invaders was now sending its own people to foreign lands.
By the late 1920s,
anthropologists had begun to modify their research
techniques to study "immigrant peoples." Fay-Cooper Cole (1930b:390)
described the process as follows:
So long as we drew our population largely from northern Europe
there was little difficulty in adjusting the newcomers to American
conditions, but with the influx from southern Europe the situation
changed. We were then forced to deal with people whose so114
cial, economic and mental backgrounds were very different from
our own, and our attempts to incorporate them into our national
life were far from successful. To remedy this situation Anthropology
is carrying on intensive investigations of these people in
their home-lands. . . . in order that we may be able to intelligently
direct their adaptation to American life and conditions.
As one of Charlotte Gower’s mentors, Cole was instrumental in her
to work with Sicilian immigrants in Chicago, and then travel to
Sicily for further research.
In the preface to Milocca:
A Sicilian Village, Gower (by
states that her aim and rationale for research in Sicily was to
study the social organization and customs of a Sicilian village.
This was to be the second application of anthropological methods,
in imitation of Robert Redfield’s work in Mexico, to the
investigation of a semi-literate society. Sicily was chosen as the
area of study partly because it was hoped that a knowledge of
the background of the Sicilian immigrants to the United States
might prove useful in understanding their problems in and reactions
to their new environment. (Chapman 1971:vii)
In Sicily, Gower conducted eighteen months of ethnographic field
in Milocca. She chose Milocca based on the recommendation
of one of her Sicilian informants and language instructors in Chicago
The individual, a man originally from Grotte (a
town located a short distance from Milocca), was familiar with the area
and was able to provide Gower with a letter of reference for her
in the community.
Ethnographic Research in Milocca
In 1928 Mussolini’s
Fascist government was well established on the Italian
mainland and was in the process of strengthening its position in Sicily.
Prefect Cesare Morì was in charge of affairs on the island. Charlotte
Gower met with Morì upon her arrival in the Sicilian regional capital
of Palermo, and obtained a letter of introduction to present to local
in Milocca (Chapman 1971:vii).
She then made her way to Grotte
by train, and traveled the remaining distance to Milocca on the back of
a mule. At the time of Gower’s arrival, Milocca was a small village
more accurately, a set of small agricultural hamlets (or robbe)
a relatively isolated region in the interior of the island. According
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 115
La Gower made her way to a
particular home in what is now
the Villaggio Vittorio
Veneto section of town. She
Italian, and had some knowledge of the Sicilian. When
the family saw a woman knocking at their door, in the evening,
alone, and wearing trousers, they quickly sent her away.
It was Don Salvatore Maria Tona, the archpriest, who made
arrangements for her accommodation for the night. The next
day Gower was introduced to the Angilella family. (Vincenzo
Ingrascì, field notes)
Although initially apprehensive about staying in this isolated
Gower was quickly reassured by Don Salvatore (Totò) Angilella and
other local officials that her stay would be fruitful. In fact, Gower
that on reading the letter from Prefect Morì "the Mayor
the midwife and informed her that henceforth I would be lodged
in her family’s large front room on the town square, and that her
would provide my meals, and that was that" (Chapman 1971:vii).
Gower welcomed the opportunity to stay with the midwife and her
family, and her new links with Don Totò Angilella and his supporters.
She soon came to realize, however, that the letter from Prefect Morì
and her relationship with the Angilella family were to have both
and negative consequences for her research. Morì’s letter raised
about her real goal(s) in coming to Milocca. Based on discussions
with members of the community today, it seems that some people
at the time wondered if Gower was gathering information for the Fascist
government, while the majority of Milocchesi suspected that she was
an "American spy" (see also Patterson 1992:85).
People, in fact, were
not convinced with any certainty that she was a scholar rather than a
spy until long after she had returned to the United States (see Messana
In a Sicilian community where people are not always free with
information about themselves and their personal and business affairs,
these suspicions certainly added to the difficulties of generating data
Gower’s situation was complicated further by the fact that Milocca
was divided politically into two competing factions, lead by the
and Cipolla families. She indicates that her affiliation with the
"considerably limited my range of contacts among the leaders of
community" (Chapman 1971:viii).
Her apparent links to people in positions
of power may have secured a place for Gower in Milocca, but they
did not allow for free and open discussion with some members of the
community. Yet, from the point of view of Avvocato
116 Living Memory
a prominent member of the Cipolla faction at the time (podestà
1932 to 1934,
and mayor from 1946 to
it was Gower herself
that was "unwilling to cross the factional divide" to pursue
As a female anthropologist in a society with sharp divisions between
the female and the male domains, Gower also faced limits in what she
could observe and discuss concerning everyday life experiences
Although, to be fair to Charlotte Gower, one
could easily add that a male anthropologist (whether Italian or
would likely have faced similar problems conducting research with
the women of the community. To her credit, Gower recognized these
drawbacks and was able to make the best of a difficult situation.
For the ethnographic study itself, Gower focused on various aspects of
life in the community. Milocca:
A Sicilian Village covers a
series of topics
that range from issues surrounding status and role (and their
to age and gender) to social stratification and religion. As a result,
much of the material contained in her book is what one would expect to
find in an early descriptive ethnography. Gower’s research, however,
innovative in some respects, although in the end it failed to live up
First, while many anthropologists of the time were conducting research
in non-Western settings, in what some would refer to as "tribal"
or "exotic" locations, Gower was one of the first North
anthropologists to conduct research at home (with her work among
Sicilians in Chicago) and to follow up this research in a Western
European setting (see Bernstein 2002;
points out, however, it is important not to overemphasize
this innovation. Gower chose an isolated community, on the margins
of Western Europe, as her research site. Sicily was at the time, and in
many respects continues to be, Italy’s island "other" (see
Milocca, in turn, as a loosely linked set of agricultural hamlets, was
an atypical agro-community even within the Sicilian interior (King and
Second, following Robert Redfield (1928),
Gower was only the second
anthropologist to concentrate on research within a specific peasant
community. Redfield’s work in Mexico stimulated a great deal of
and in some cases controversy (see Oscar Lewis 1972),
research among Mexican peasants (and in peasant societies in general).
Charlotte Gower’s work had the potential of generating similar
in the anthropology of Italy and the Mediterranean region. Her research
both predates and appears to anticipate later interest in a variMigliore,
Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 117
ety of themes in Mediterranean anthropology—including gender issues,
honor and shame, patron saints and religious festivals, factionalism,
the study of the interrelationships among kinship, friendship and
networks (Lepowsky 2000:138–139).
Gower, for example, provides an
early discussion of the social and economic aspects of what she called
cumparatu—the system of
ritual kinship established through godparenthood
Ritual kinship did not become a central
theme in Mediterranean anthropology until the 1960s
Third, Gower’s research had an applied dimension. Italian immigrants
to the United States (as well as many other ethnic groups) tended to
in urban centers and, more specifically, in areas inhabited by other
members of their particular group. Both politicians and the general
regarded these immigrant enclaves as a threat to the American "melting
pot" ideology. Gower’s study, as mentioned earlier, was to
a basis for understanding Sicilian peasant life, in order to inform
on immigrant settlement in the United States (Chapman 1971:vii).
This was the rationale that provided the basis for securing funds for
research project. The promise of generating policy-related information
According to Mangiameli (1997,
see also 1994),
the Allied Forces
made use of Gower’s manuscript, directly or indirectly, to inform
of their actions during and immediately after World War II. During this
period, a number of anthropologists engaged in the study of
a distance"—that is, the anthropological study of "the
in the characters of individuals who are members of societies which
are inaccessible to direct observation . . . because a state of active
exists," there are "barriers to travel and research," or
due to temporal
distance from a particular population (Mead 1953b:3).
often had a political purpose—such as providing information about
the enemy or providing a basis for establishing successful
with allies (Mead 1953a).
Mangiameli maintains that William Foote
Whyte’s article "Sicilian Peasant Society" (1944),
constitutes a discussion
of culture at a distance. In the article, Whyte (1944:65)
the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century writings of Giuseppe Pitrè
and, to a lesser extent, Gower’s research on Milocca to address
of Sicilian culture and society. Although Gower’s manuscript was not
published until 1971,
Whyte had the opportunity to read the work because
Robert Redfield had sent him the manuscript for review in 1941.3
Mangiameli suggests that the Allied forces made use of Whyte’s
and/or Gower’s manuscript directly, in the occupation of Sicily and
118 Living Memory
governance of the island after the war. Gower’s descriptions of
local customs and the terrain in the surrounding area would have been a
major asset for the American and British occupying forces.
We have not found documentation to support Mangiameli’s suggestion.
Apparently, however, a copy of Gower’s manuscript traveled to
Britain with Radcliffe-Brown in 1937,
and he had possession of the document
during the war years (see Lepowsky 2000).4
Coincidently, or not,
the Sicily Zone Handbook 1943
(see Mangiameli 1994),
a manual prepared
for the British Occupation Forces in Sicily, does contain a great
deal of information concerning everything from geography to social
structure to Sicilian religious beliefs and practices. The manual makes
reference to Gower, Radcliffe-Brown, or Whyte, so we can only speculate
as to whether or not there is a connection between the manual and
the unpublished Gower manuscript.
Manuscript Lost (and Found): The Long Road to Publication
shortly after her return from Sicily, Charlotte Gower joined
Ralph Linton at the University of Wisconsin (Anonymous 1930:297;
Although listed as a physical anthropologist,
her teaching duties included courses in social and cultural
Much of the writing for Milocca:
A Sicilian Village took place
Gower was affiliated with the University of Wisconsin. She began
and completed a full version of the manuscript by 1935.
Gower submitted the manuscript to the University of Chicago Press for
publication. After almost two years of consideration, in spite of
Redfield and Fay-Cooper Cole’s lobbying in support of the manuscript,
the Press declined the offer to publish the work (Lepowsky 2000:150).
Gower then submitted Milocca
to the University of
Wisconsin Press, but
they too declined to publish the manuscript.
Between 1937 and
Cole, Redfield, Radcliffe-Brown, and others
made renewed efforts to interest someone in publishing Gower’s
(see Lepowsky 2000).
All of the existing copies of the work, however,
were somehow lost in the process. The manuscript did not resurface
until Fred Eggan discovered a carbon copy of the work among the
Department of Anthropology files at the University of Chicago in 1966
Finally, in 1970,
with the encouragement
of Eggan and, indirectly, Constance Cronin, the Schenkman
Publishing Company agreed to publish the manuscript. In a letter to
Eggan, who had agreed to write the foreword to the book, Gower
what transpired in the following words:
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 119
Why not make the poor old thing a casualty of WW II? All that
I recall was that there were hopes of a commercial publisher and
it was peddled about a bit 1935–37
. . . and then shipped off to
Oxford [to Radcliffe-Brown]. I left for China, war broke out in
1939, and when I got back (1942)
Dr. Cole said the Department
had no copy of the MS, but thought there might be a microfilm
of it somewhere. I then gave him my yellow carbon, which you
Milocca: A Sicilian Village finally
appeared in print in 1971.
Difficult Choices in Uncertain Times
In the mid-1930s,
Charlotte Gower wrote to Philleo Nash addressing
her situation at the University of Wisconsin, and her fears for the
Certain discoveries during the past week have pretty well destroyed
whatever confidence I may once have had in myself.
. . . I shall possibly . . . lose my position here—for general
[John] Gillin discussed the matter with Ralph [Linton]:
my classes are too small, and students complain that I am a
poor teacher. . . . So, in the face of the present economic crisis,
I might well be dispensed with.—I do not think that the loss
of my position, disastrous as that would be financially, is as
dreadful a prospect as the present recognition that my best is
not good enough.—Nor can I offer any excuses. My training
has been good.—Linton, telling me of the conversation, shows
a determination to fight to keep me on—but he is disappointed
in me. . . . But even if I am kept on—I shall feel "kept."
. . .
So what next? I think of Radin, and Leslie Spier—I know what
opportunities I will have for another chance. The future looks
very, very gloomy.6
Ironically, these employment difficulties provided the incentive to
the Milocca manuscript.
Gower stressed in the same letter that her
writing provided "a sanctuary" from the problems she was
facing at the
University of Wisconsin. The letter also may explain why Gower began to
seek alternative employment as early as 1936
(see Lepowsky 2000:154).
By the end of 1937,
Charlotte Gower had published two short articles
in Kimball Young’s Source
Book for Sociology (1935a,
two book reviews for American
completed a full manuscript based on her research in Sicily, and
a new research project with the population of New Glarus, Wisconsin
120 Living Memory
see also Lepowsky 2000:154).
Yet Gower’s position
at the University of Wisconsin remained tenuous. In January 1938,
she received official news that her contract would not be renewed when
it expired in June 1939.7
John Gillin (chair, Department of
Anthropology), in a letter to G. C. Sellery (dean, College of Letters
Science, University of Wisconsin), identified two reasons for not
Gower’s appointment: lack of student interest in her courses, and a
lack of research and publication while at Wisconsin.8
Failure to publish
the Milocca manuscript
between 1935 and
as a key rationale
for not renewing Gower’s contract at Wisconsin.
A relatively large number of American women sought a higher education
in anthropology, particularly at Columbia University, between 1921
and 1940 (Cole
Some of these women were successful in securing
academic positions and advancing their career goals. Ruth Benedict
and Margaret Mead stand out as two of the more prominent female
of the period. Gender-based biases and constraints, however,
played a major role in the lives of most, if not all, of these women
(see Cole 1999,
Charlotte Gower’s life in anthropology, as Maria
effectively points out, was not free of these biases and
constraints. A weak teaching and publication record may have played a
role in the decision to terminate Gower’s appointment, but the
surrounding the decision were certainly much more complex.
Rather than wait for her contract to expire, Gower resigned from her
position at Wisconsin. The late 1930s
were difficult years for anthropologists,
particularly female anthropologists, seeking positions in the
United States. So, with the help of Fay-Cooper Cole and Robert Redfield
(see Lepowsky 2000:157–158),
Gower applied for and secured a position
at Lingnan University in Canton, China. Her plan at the time was
to teach at Lingnan for three years (Gower 1938).9
The Japanese attacked and occupied Canton shortly after Gower’s
in China. In the initial months of the occupation, Gower served as
a volunteer at the refugee hospital that was quickly set up at the
campus. She described it thus:
There were 8,000
refugees at one time camped on
I served as pharmacist for the Red Cross and helped distribute
food and clothing. I stayed until ’39,
but after the Chinese burned
Canton in their scorched earth program, I moved to Hong Kong,
where Ling Nan University carried on. (Smith 1943)
In Hong Kong, Gower resumed her position as dean of women at
Lingnan University ("Miss Gower Tells of Life" 1943).
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 121
Within a short time, Hong Kong too fell to the Japanese. Several days
later Gower and other "enemy aliens" were interned at the
camp on the island (Corbett 1963:138–139).
her predicament in this way:
We had a fairly decent camp, but it was terribly crowded. . . .
The crowding was next worst to the constant, gnawing hunger.
From January to March we were almost always hungry. At
first our diet was fixed at 1,000
calories per day, and if most of
us had not brought extra supplies, we would have died. ("Miss
Gower Tells of Life" 1943)
Charlotte Gower was released in 1942
as part of the Gripsholm exchange
of prisoners, and returned to the United States (Henney 1943;
A number of prominent American anthropologists were involved in
the war effort at the time. Fay-Cooper Cole "was engaged in the
of Army and Navy officers in the Civil Affairs Training School for the
Far East, where his long experience in Southeast Asia and the
was put to practical use" (Eggan 1963:643).
It was through Cole’s connections
in Washington that Gower became involved with the American
wartime intelligence efforts (see Lepowsky 2000:160).10
On January 6,
Robert Hutchins (president, University of Chicago)
wrote a letter of recommendation in support of Charlotte Gower’s
application to the U.S. Marine Corps. In the letter, Hutchins stressed
Gower’s outstanding ability in collecting, analyzing, and presenting
information, and referred to her as "an exceptionally capable and
brilliant woman" (Mattingly 1979:62).
Gower quickly became a captain,
and later a major, in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve—where
she served as director of training ("Capt. Gower Now" 1943;
In recognition of her service to the Marine Corps, Gower
was awarded the Navy Letter of Commendation (Mattingly 1979).
Then, on June 1,
Gower became affiliated with the Office of Strategic
Services (Meid 1968;
Her experiences in Canton
and Hong Kong, along with her knowledge of the Cantonese language,
made her a valuable asset in both the war effort and the Cold War that
followed. Given her status with the secret service, it is also
as Mangiameli (1994,
suggests, that Gower’s research in Milocca
made its way into American strategic plans for the occupation and
After the war, in 1946,
Gower returned briefly to China and Lingnan
University to take on the position of Head of the Department of
122 Living Memory
She married Savilion H. Chapman in 1947.
year, the year "the CIA was founded, she joined the agency and
with it until her retirement in 1971"
1982). Savilion Chapman served
as "an operations officer in the field of
maritime affairs" with the CIA from 1947
H. Chapman" 1992).
Charlotte Gower was one of a number of anthropologists who worked
directly or indirectly with the Office of Strategic Services, and later
CIA. In the mid-1960s,
with public attention focused on Project Camelot,
11 the discussion of the
interrelationships between anthropological
ethics and work for intelligence agencies reached a point of crisis (see
Unfortunately, we have not found any documents
that provide insight into how Gower rationalized her position
with the CIA, and how she viewed the debates that started to take place
within the discipline of anthropology.
By the time Milocca: A
Sicilian Village made its way
into print, Charlotte
Gower Chapman for all intents and purposes was outside of the
field of anthropology. A variety of factors contributed to ensure that
would not become a key figure in the discipline: (1)
the difficulties she
experienced in her quest to secure an academic position; (2)
year delay in publication of her manuscript; (3)
the fact that she did
not publish any anthropological works in the years just before, or
the publication of the Milocca
the ethnography itself
did not provide a strong theoretical contribution to the growing body
anthropological literature; and (5)
the secret nature of her work for the
CIA made any written documents she may have produced for the agency
invisible for an anthropological audience (Murray 2005:73).
Milocca’s Place in
A number of scholars have reviewed Gower Chapman’s Milocca
the years. In an early, pre-publication review, William Whyte
a series of shortcomings in the manuscript.13
He concluded that the author
should have paid more attention to the social structure of Milocca
and the processes of social mobility within the community. Overall, he
welcomes Gower’s contribution to the anthropological study of peasant
societies. The post-publication reviews discuss the manuscript in a
positive light (see Cappanari 1973;
1973; Davis 1974;
Reviewers tend to regard the manuscript
(including the striking photographs of people and their activities)
as an important historical document. Paul Sterling, for example, states,
"The publication of this record from nearly 50
years ago will supply anMigliore,
Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 123
thropologists, sociologists and social historians interested in Sicily,
Mafia, the Mediterranean, peasants, Fascism and so on, with a mine of
takes the discussion one step further to identify a
weakness in Edward Banfield’s The
Moral Basis of a Backward Society
In the 1960s
Banfield drew heavy criticism for reducing
"all of Italian society south of Rome to the single behavioural
trope of ‘amoral familism’" (Schneider and Schneider 2003:110).
amoral familism represented the following strategy:
"Maximize the material short range advantages of the nuclear
assume that all others will do likewise." More specifically, he
community cooperation to solve local problems in Montegrano (and by
extrapolation other southern Italian towns) was not possible, because
people were more concerned with promoting the interests of their own
families. Scarpaci makes use of Gower Chapman’s manuscript to show
that Banfield’s behavioral trope did not apply in the case of Milocca.
He states, moreover, that: "Banfield’s theory of amoral
its sharp definition in the Milocchese world of informal co-operation
among residents of each robba
[agricultural hamlet] and in
system of extended kinship and friendship based on cumparatu
co-parenthood]" (Scarpaci 1973:213).
If these reviews are any indication, Milocca:
A Sicilian Village was well
received when it finally appeared in print in 1971.
went as far as to indicate, "Chapman, Eggan, and the publisher
performed a valuable service to the social sciences in presenting this
George M. Foster, in a Schenkman Publishing Company
advertisement in Current
Anthropology, is quoted as
the book as "The finest account of peasant life I have ever
matter). In fact, in an unsolicited letter to Alfred Schenkman,
dated January 18,
Foster suggests that in comparison to Redfield’s
Tepoztlán: A Mexican Village,
Gower Chapman’s Milocca "is
of the two." As mentioned earlier, Gower Chapman’s work in
many of the themes that later became prevalent in Italian and
Mediterranean anthropology. Her work has been cited, and continues to
be cited, by scholars dealing with Sicily and the Mediterranean region,
as well as by those interested in Italian immigration to various
destinations (e.g., Cronin 1970;
and other reasons, Susan Parman lists Gower Chapman’s Milocca
"classic" text "in the anthropology of Europe" and
"the classic ethnography
of Italy"—the type of text where "the imagination of the
(and the reader) engages the specifics of ethnographic detail and
trates this detail to produce insight" (1997:10).
These positive reviews,
comments, and citations, however, have not been sufficient to earn
Gower Chapman a more prominent place in the history of North
Relatively speaking, Gower Chapman’s work in Sicily has received
much more attention by European scholars. John Davis, in his People
of the Mediterranean (1977),
makes extensive reference to the Milocca
ethnography. It is Wim Ravesteijn, however, who provides an early,
look at some of the ideas contained in the manuscript. Ravesteijn
conducted anthropological research for his MA thesis in Milocca
(now Milena) between October 1977
and February 1978.
constitutes a restudy of Milocca, focusing primarily on the various
economic and political changes that took place in the community after
1930. Ravesteijn (1979b)
is particularly critical of Gower Chapman’s
suggestion that little had changed in Milocca. In her preface to the
Gower Chapman attempts to compensate for the long delay
in the publication of the manuscript by making the following statement:
During the forty years . . . since I studied Milocca, enormous
changes have taken place throughout the world . . . . Milocca
is now connected with the rest of the world by an automobile
road, and is reported to have electricity. . . . However, it
is doubtful that the basic economy has changed or that there
has been a marked increase in population. The hilly terrain does
not lend itself to mechanized agriculture. It is likely that life is
not much different from what it was when I was there, with the
same social stratification and local politics dominated by two
rival factions. Standards of conduct, which forty years ago differed
little from those in more advanced Sicilian communities,
are probably much the same. (1971:ix)
Unfortunately, Gower Chapman made the statement without the benefit
of revisiting the community. Much had changed.
Milocca becomes Milena
There is evidence of a long history of human habitation dating back to
the early Neolithic period in the area of Milocca-Milena, particularly
the vicinity of Serra del Palco (see La Rosa 1997).
In more recent history,
this area was under the municipal control of the two larger communities
of Sutera and Campofranco. Milocca became an autonomous
unit in 1923 (Petìx
Several years after Charlotte Gower had
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 125
left Milocca, during an eleven-month period between February and
the community went through a metamorphosis. Milocca
became Villa Littoria, then Littoria Nissena, and finally Milena—after
Milena Vukotic of Montenegro, the mother of Italy’s Queen Elena (see
The name change(s) occurred due to political
interests within the Fascist Party, with the final decision coming from
outside Milocca-Milena itself.
Economic, Political, and Social Change
Although the name change is significant, Ravesteijn (1979b)
on a series of additional changes that affected life in Milena.
Gower Chapman was correct in her assertion that the population size of
Milocca in the late 1920s
was not much different from the population
size of Milena in 1971.
What she failed to realize is that the population
figures were similar not because community structure and activity
the same, but rather because socioeconomic conditions sparked
a great deal of out-migration (Ravesteijn 1978,
This migration process, in turn, brought about major
social and cultural changes in the community (see Pasqualino 1990).
In terms of the political and economic situation, King and Patterson
see also Patterson 1992)
argue that the Milocca text
failed to examine
adequately two significant phenomena. First, although Gower
makes passing reference to Milocchese emigration
to specific locations in the United States, she does not address the
this emigration process may have influenced change in the community.
Second, Gower Chapman failed to address the Fascist policies that were
producing change in the rural areas of Sicily at the very moment she
was conducting research in Milocca. Gower Chapman chose to concentrate
on Milocca as an isolated peasant community rather than a community
experiencing a great deal of political, economic, and social influence
from an external political force. As part of this critique, Patterson
suggests that Gower Chapman failed to address adequately the
effects brought about by the Fascist government’s attempts to
the Mafia in Sicily. These weaknesses in the ethnography are compounded
further by her failure to acknowledge the possibility of change between
1930 and 1971.
for example, points out that
the Angilella faction had virtually disappeared by the early 1970s;
were now three political parties—the Christian Democrats (DC), the
communist PCI, and the socialist PSI—competing for power (see also
126 Living Memory
Milena also experienced significant economic change. According to
although the economy was still "agricultural
and wheat-oriented," agrarian activity had declined and much of
land in the vicinity of Milena remained "uncultivated or neglected."
He also points out that the economy, as a result of European economic
agreements, was now very much susceptible to and dependent upon
new forces outside of Sicily and the Italian state. Vito Messana (1985:9)
takes the criticism one step further. He points out that, beginning in
there was a progressive disintegration of many local traditions
in the area, due to sviluppo
(development) and the
new communication technologies.
Charlotte Gower Chapman herself, in a letter to Wim Ravesteijn,
her failure to acknowledge the possibility of change in her preface
to Milocca: A Sicilian
Village to three interrelated
I suppose that where I went wrong in my rash 1971
was my lack of faith in the future of mechanization of farming
in Milocca. It has resulted in less land being cultivated, now that
patches accessible only to the zappa
(mattock) are simply left
uncultivated. . . . In fact, I did not give sufficient weight to the
opening up of Milena by the highway. Nor did I conceive what
the effective use of a socialist government would do. (Ravesteijn
At one level, Gower Chapman’s speculation that little had changed
in Milocca can be excused simply as an unfortunate case of an
losing touch with her research community. At another level, it
may constitute a style of communication linked to the very history of
anthropology—a style of communication that involves aspects of
romanticism, or the conflation of the past with the present to signify
that one feels a closeness to the community even though she or he has
been absent for a period of time. In 2005,
for instance, Sam Migliore returned
to Milena after a two-year absence. He caught himself, on at least
three occasions, making use of a similar style of communication with
statements such as "things seem the same here in Milena" or
seems to have changed" (Sam Migliore, field notes). Yet a number
things had changed, and he knew that changes had taken place based on
numerous telephone conversations with community members. Four of
these changes, for example, include the opening of a new caffé/bar
the town square, the signing of a Friendship
Pact with the city of Asti in
northern Italy, scholastic and cultural exchanges with schools in
and Poland, and an attempt by certain individuals to revive some
of the celebration of Corpus
Signuri) in Milena.
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 127
In the Roman Catholic tradition, the celebration of Corpus
takes place each year approximately sixty days after Easter. The
occurs in honor of the Eucharist (the transformation of the bread
into the body of Christ). In the past, Milena’s celebration of Lu
began on Holy Thursday, and involved a procession transporting the
Eucharistic bread through the various robbe
(or segments) of the larger
community. People displayed their finest linen along the procession
route, while certain families set up small altars outside of their
(see Chapman 1971:
and Chapman 1973:210–211).
The priest placed the consecrated host (Lu
Signuri) on the altar, where
it remained overnight. The procession continued the next day, stopping
at the next altar. It often took a week to complete the procession and
Lu Signuri to the church.
In recent years the celebration has become
a one-day event, with the proceedings taking place on the Sunday and
people preparing very few, if any, altars. In May 2005,
just a few days
after Sam Migliore arrived in Milena, three families prepared elaborate
altars for Lu Signuri.14
Change, whether significant or
minor, is continuously
taking place in Milena, as it is elsewhere. It is difficult to
a scholar for conflating the past with the present, however, one
through personal experience, how easy it is to fall into the trap of
these changes in everyday conversation.
At yet another level, failure to address issues of change are
with earlier conceptions of culture as something: "shared within a
social group; unique, bounded and homogeneous; relatively fixed,
consistent and stable; and, marked by holism and historical endurance"
(Dorazio-Migliore et al. 2005:341;
see also Clifford and Marcus 1986).
The danger of representing culture in these terms is that it creates a
stereotype of a particular group of people and their way of life. This
is particularly important in any discussion of an unchanging "Sicilian
culture," because the phrase is often loaded with images of
crime, "codes of honour and vendetta," and so on (see
and Schneider 2003:104–105).
In a recent article in The
Varese discussed the capture of a prominent Mafia boss:
An invaluable guide to [the world of the Mafia] is still the
written in the late 1920s
by Charlotte Gower, an
American anthropologist. She spent a year in the small village
of Milocca, some 80 miles
south of Palermo. When the fascist
police raided the village searching for Mafiosi, "the square,"
wrote, "was filled with bleating sheep, goats, horses and mules."
With minor alterations, these words could well describe the
128 Living Memory
central square of Corleone today. Another unchanging feature
shared by these Mafiosi is their deep attachment to the Catholic
Church. (Varese 2006)
Gower Chapman’s failure to acknowledge the possibility of change in
Milena, in a sense, helps to reinforce certain stereotypes of Sicilians
their "culture." Uncritical or unqualified uses of her work
the potential of ensuring the continued survival of these stereotypes.
Milocca: A Sicilian Village—An
Alba Angilella, the daughter of Don Totò Angilella, recalls that
Gower Chapman sent at least one copy of her ethnography to Milena
once it appeared in print (Vincenzo Ingrascì, field notes). By 1976,
Cordaro, Arturo Petìx, and others in Milena were taking a serious
interest in the manuscript. Cordaro, in fact, went as far as to write
Fred Eggan to (1)
enquire formally about the possibility of someone in
Milena preparing an Italian translation of the ethnography; and, (2)
him that a student was interested in conducting a follow-up study
of Milocca-Milena.15 The
student’s name is not specified in the correspondence
available to us. Wim Ravesteijn, as mentioned earlier, conducted
research in Milena in 1977–78.
The student Cordaro was referring
to, however, may have been Paolino Schillaci. Schillaci (1978),
Milocchese fluent in English, conducted a restudy of Milocca-Milena as
part of his degree requirements at the University of Palermo. His
Rileggendo: Milocca a Sicilian Village,
attempts to correct some factual
errors in the Gower Chapman ethnography, as well as expand discussion
of certain cultural beliefs and practices present in the 1920s
with community elders.
Arturo Petìx (1919–1987),
a highly acclaimed local historian, published
the first edition of his Da
Milocca a Milena in 1984
1992). The manuscript makes
only brief mention of Charlotte Gower
Chapman’s work (Petìx 1992:143,
This was due, in part, to the fact
that Petìx was not proficient in the English language. At the same
however, he was critical of the ethnography’s lack of time depth, and
the presence of factual errors in the few places where Gower Chapman
did comment on local history. Nonetheless, during the early 1980s,
worked hard to promote the publication of an Italian translation of the
ethnography, through the efforts of Paolino Schillaci. The local
however, became increasingly concerned that an Italian translation
would be viewed, at least in the eyes of some community members, as a
negative portrayal of certain families, and possibly the community as a
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 129
whole, because: the research was based on direct observation and
and, Gower Chapman mentioned people by name (or nickname)
as she described the conditions under which they lived (for example,
the fact that some people lived in the same structure as their animals).
Without the support of the local administration, the project came to a
It was Vito Messana of Montedoro, a community a short distance
from Milena, that eventually published the Italian translation—Milocca:
Un Villaggio Siciliano (1985).
completed the translation
while serving a physically and mentally challenging prison term at the
Carcere di Rebibbia in
Rome for participation in the Red Brigades (see
also King and Patterson 1990).
Although Arturo Petìx was involved in
the project, he restricted his efforts to the translation of Sicilian
terms. In the preface, Messana briefly relates the background to Gower
Chapman’s research and the publication of the ethnography, identifies
certain weaknesses inherent in the manuscript (such as the issue of
"change"), and expresses his hope that the translation would
serve as a
catalyst for future research on Milena.
To commemorate the new translation, Messana’s friends and relatives
organized a book launch in Montedoro. Vito Messana was released from
prison temporarily to take part in the celebration (King and Patterson
He arrived for the event accompanied by two carabinieri
The celebration soon became a politically charged
spectacle. According to Mangiameli (1997:332),
the proceedings were
interrupted when one of the speakers from Montedoro commented that
such a laudable initiative, so important to the Milocchesi,
have been undertaken in Milena; and (2)
no one from Milena’s administrative
council had bothered to even attend the celebration. The proceedings
soon deteriorated into a shouting match between people from
the two communities. Mangiameli (1997)
regards the conflict as a case
of campanelismo (the
expression of community attachment and loyalty)
intensified with the passion of political tension. The Communist Party
was in power in Montedoro, while the Socialists controlled the
in Milena. There are different versions, however, of what actually
transpired at the launch. Certain members of the community recall that
it was one of the leaders of the communist group in Milena itself that
made the offending comments. Although the mayor of Milena, Salvatore
Luparelli, did not attend the celebration, members of the socialist
were present to observe the proceedings, and they reacted quickly to
negative comments about their administration. Federico Messana, the
mayor of Montedoro (and a relative of Vito Messana), intervened by
130 Living Memory
stating loudly, "we are not here to make politics; we are here to
culture" (Vincenzo Ingrascì, field notes). To diffuse the
conflict, he began
to read a passage from a Sicilian play about courtship and marriage,
as quoted in the Gower Chapman ethnography (1985:124–125).
archpriest of Montedoro, Don Andrea Duminuco, then blessed all those
present to prevent any further hostilities.
Milocca Restudied, and Re-Restudied
The Italian translation of Gower Chapman’s Milocca
opened the door
for a series of studies and restudies of Milocca-Milena by graduate
enrolled at universities in Sicily (and other parts of Italy). Of these
works, Caterina Pasqualino’s doctoral dissertation in anthropology
(University of Palermo) is particularly significant. Pasqualino
a modified version of her dissertation as Milena:
Un paese Siciliano
sessant’anni dopo in 1990.
She divides the manuscript into two primary
sections. The first section revisits Gower Chapman’s ethnography
in terms of three interrelated themes—a discussion of Milocca’s
space, social interaction, and the family. Pasqualino (1990:27)
that Gower Chapman was not only influenced by the Chicago School of
Sociology and Robert Redfield’s work in Mexico, but also by
ideas associated with functionalism. She argues that a reading of the
ethnography indicates that Gower Chapman accepted and incorporated
notions of "harmony" and "functionality" into her
work. In certain
respects, this is not surprising. We know that Radcliffe-Brown was at
the University of Chicago at the time Gower was preparing the Milocca
manuscript, and that the two were in communication with one another
(see Lepowsky 2000).
The detailed correspondence between Charlotte
Gower and Philleo Nash during the 1930s
also confirms her interest in
functionalism as a theoretical orientation for anthropological
16 According to Pasqualino (1990:60),
Gower Chapman may
mention factional tensions in Milocca but, taken as a whole, her
generates an image of the community as united, harmonious,
and homogeneous (see also King and Patterson 1990,
1992). In the second section,
Pasqualino addresses issues of change and
persistence in Milena during the roughly sixty-year period after Gower
Chapman completed her research in Milocca. Pasqualino’s restudy, then,
confirms and expands upon the critique of Gower Chapman’s portrayal
of Milocca as harmonious and unchanging.
Since 1990 a
number of Italian students, and sometimes professors,
have produced works dealing with either Gower Chapman or Milocca-
Milena. Rosa Maria C. Taffaro (2000),
for example, produced a thesis
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 131
at the University of Palermo updating the discussion of change in
to the end of the twentieth century. Maria Massa, in contrast, produced
a thesis titled Un’Americana
a Milocca). Her thesis
touches on a number
of issues, including two not discussed in earlier works. First, she
on linguistic differences and anomalies between the English and
the Italian versions of the ethnography. Massa points out passages
Vito Messana has incorrectly translated certain words, or
the meaning behind specific phrases. Although readers of the Italian
should be aware of these anomalies, their presence does not devalue the
importance of Messana’s contribution. Second, Massa addresses Gower
Chapman’s use of photography in both research and publication. She
argues that the photos provide a vehicle for comparison, and thereby
an excellent basis for an examination of change in Milocca since the
1930s. She also argues that by
bringing the latest equipment from the
United States to Milocca, and taking many, many photographs, Gower
Chapman actually introduced new ideas and ways of seeing the world to
community members. In our view, it is ironic that someone who did not
believe that any significant change had taken place in Milocca-Milena
over an approximately forty-year period may actually have been
in stimulating at least some aspects of change in the community.
More recently, Maria Lisa Bonanno (2006)
produced a thesis at the
University of Palermo dealing with the depiction of the Sicilian
in the writings of Angelina Lanza Damiani, Louise Hamilton Caico,
and Charlotte Gower Chapman.17
In summary, American anthropologists, with the exception of Maria
have paid limited or uncritical attention to Charlotte
Gower Chapman’s ethnography. Milocca:
A Sicilian Village, in
has received much more sustained and critical attention in European
circles, particularly by students at Sicilian and mainland Italian
Milocca’s Place in the
History of Milena
In 1993 Caroline
Brettel edited a special volume addressing this question:
What happens when research "subjects" read the ethnographies
anthropologists produce? The answer, in part, depends on what has
been written, how people interpret the ethnography, and the potential
implications of the work for specific individuals and the community as
a whole. Today, Milena has a population of approximately 3,400
Not everyone in the community has read Milocca:
A Sicilian Village,
and Charlotte Gower Chapman (sometimes referred to as La
La Chapman, or Donna
Carlotta) is not a name often
heard in peo132
ple’s regular everyday conversations. Most people, however, have some
knowledge of the American anthropologist and her work—a knowledge
ranging from the indirect and superficial to an in-depth knowledge of,
and scholarly interest in, what she and others have written about the
At a more personal level, members of the Angilella family recall fondly
the woman who spent almost two years under the care and protection of
Don Totò Angilella. According to Alba Angilella, Charlotte Gower and
the Angilellas developed a strong friendship that lasted long after
had returned to the United States. They exchanged letters for a number
of years and, on occasion, Gower sent gifts—such as crocheted shoes
herself had made, as well as toys—for the children. Signora Alba also
recalls that a family member, the lawyer Silvio Angilella, along with
wife, paid Charlotte Gower a visit in the United States in the early 1960s
(see also Ravesteijn n.d.:50).
Signor Silvio, who had served as one of
Gower’s guides in Sicily, did not know her address in Washington DC.
He was amazed "that he simply had to look up her name in the
directory of the area designated as the Intelligence Sector of the
city" to locate her (Patterson 1992:85).
The Angilella family was proud
to hear from Silvio that Gower welcomed him in a room she had filled
with photos and memorabilia of Milocca, items she used to remember
her days in Sicily (Vincenzo Ingrascì, field notes). For the
Gower has become an integral figure in their family history.
Charlotte Gower Chapman is also a significant figure in the history
of Milena as a community. Many towns and rural areas across Europe
are in the process of 1)
rediscovering, documenting and, in many cases,
publicly acknowledging or celebrating various aspects of their cultural
history; and 2)
making use of their knowledge of the past to formulate
or contest plans for the future. Milena is no exception. La Gower and
Milocca: A Sicilian Village figure
prominently in this process.
Local and Regional Publications
Luigi Pirandello, the famous Sicilian author awarded the Nobel Prize
for Literature in 1934,
was probably the first modern writer to incorporate
Milocca into his works. Two of the short stories he produced at the
beginning of the twentieth century, Acqua
e lì and Le
sorprese della scienza,
are set explicitly in Milocca. Mention of Milocca also appears in
his 1913 novel,
I Vecchi e i Giovani.
According to a blurb about Milena
on the Provincia regionale
di Caltanissetta (2003)
Web site, however, the
1971 publication of Gower
Chapman’s ethnography officially represents
the birth of interest in the modern cultural history of Milocca-Milena.
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 133
a sense, La Gower not only placed the community on the international
map, but her work has served as the starting point or referent for much
that has been written or published about Milocca-Milena since 1971.
In some cases, local or regional writers simply make reference to,
provide brief quotations from, or make use of photos related to Gower
Chapman’s work (see, for example, Difrancesco 2007;
and Testa 1984).
In contrast, Arturo Petìx, as mentioned previously,
was more concerned with identifying factual errors in the ethnography.
In Feste Religiose a
Arturo’s son, Carlo Petìx, also
addresses some of these errors. La Gower, for example, stated that
Angilellas were faithful to the [Madonna of the] Addolorata because the
founder of the Milocchese branch of the family had been the donor of
statue in the church, and the first to organize her annual festa"
Carlo Petìx (1996:44)
points out that, although the Angilella
family has had an important link with the Madonna Addolorata and her
festa, the inscription on
the statue itself indicates that it was three other
individuals who donated the statue to the church. Petìx (1996:36)
points out that Gower Chapman (1973:227)
mistakenly labeled photograph
24 of the ethnography as a
procession for Saint Joseph. The statue
in the photo is actually that of Sant’Antonio
With respect to emigration from Milocca to the United States, Gower
Chapman suggested that the Milocchesi did not establish any formal
organizations. Instead, they remained "united by ties of blood
or friendship" (Chapman 1971:151).
Giuseppe Virciglio (1991:198)
points out that this statement is incorrect. Milocchesi workers in West
Wyoming, Pennsylvania, had in fact established a mutual-aid society
(Società mutuo soccorso
milocchesi) as early as 1915–16.
that people may have held back this information from La Gower
out of fear that she was an American spy gathering material that might
be used to harm emigrants in the United States.
Some of these factual errors may not seem significant to an
or North American audience. At the local level, the correction
of errors made by foreign scholars takes on a different significance.
Leonardo Sciascia (2003:19)
stated in Milena for the September 7,
launch of Arturo Petìx’s Da
Milocca a Milena, "the
history of a town is
also a form of research into a collective individuality, from which
may find their personal identity" (our translation). The
these factual errors is a reflection of Milena’s civic pride—a
has fostered interest and participation in various cultural heritage
including the production of a number of noteworthy publications.
Of the more recent publications, the one that stands out as particu134
larly significant is Vincenzo La Rosa’s edited volume Dalle
robbe: La storia lunga di Milocca-Milena (1997).
This ambitious work
brings together a series of articles dealing with approximately twenty
years of archaeological research in the vicinity of Milena, and
them with historical pieces, ethnographic works, as well as other
The La Rosa volume stands as an invaluable resource for both
the local and the scholarly community. La Gower features prominently in
the publication. The book not only contains a selection from the
version of Gower Chapman’s Milocca,
but also material that deals directly
and critically with her work—for example, articles or reprints from
writings of Mangiameli, Messana, Patterson, and Ravesteijn. Given the
scholarly attention La Gower receives in this volume, and the fact that
the book was published by the Pro Loco of Milena (a local, voluntary
organization devoted to promoting various aspects of Milena), it is
that at least certain segments of the community regard her work as a
contribution to Milena’s culture and history.
A Calendar for Milena
One of the more interesting local publications to make use of Gower
Chapman’s work is the 1998
historical calendar (C’era
una volta Milocca)
complied by Tommaso Palumbo and Vincenzo Ingrascì. The calendar
features both photos and text from La Gower’s research in Milocca,
and places them within an historical context. January and February
open with an extended excerpt from Pirandello’s La
sorprese della scienza.
This is followed, for March, with a segment from the Italian version
of Gower Chapman’s preface to Milocca.
In the brief introduction
to this piece, the compilers refer to La Gower’s ethnography as a
milestone in the community’s "patrimonio
while their final note (at the end of the calendar) states forcibly
without Gower Chapman, Milena would not be as famous, and would
not have attracted so much scholarly attention around the world.
Ingrascì also presents this notion in his 2007
poem "Microismo di
Milocca" (translated by Calogero Milazzo and Sam Migliore):
La poetica della vita Contadina The poetics of rural life
Charlotte Day Gower Chapman Charlotte Day Gower Chapman
Portò al mondo intero vicina To the entire world brought near
Lo scibile postero al luogo chiama Beckoning further research hither
The remaining sections of the calendar include excerpts from more
writings on Milena, including the ethnographic work of Pasqualino
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 135
and Ravensteijn (n.d.) examining changes that have taken place
in Milocca-Milena in the years after Gower Chapman’s original study.
The publication of the calendar was made possible by the Banca di
Credito Cooperativo di Milena, and it was distributed gratis to all of
families of community. This calendar was the first product to bring La
Gower’s photos and writing into every home, and thereby raise
of her work throughout the community. In the concluding statement,
Palumbo and Ingrascì express a plea to the community to "dedicate
road, a piazza, a space to Charlotte" (our translation). Vincenzo
repeats this plea in a brief article for La
voce di Campofranco (2002).
La Casa Museo, L’Antiquarium, and the Internet
Giuseppe P. Palumbo served as president of Milena’s Pro Loco during
much of the 1980s
One year after the publication of Vito
Messana’s translation of Milocca:
A Sicilian Village (1985),
and others formally opened the Casa
Museo della civiltà contadina—a
typical, late-nineteenth-century home transformed into a museum
peasant life and culture. The inspiration for establishing the
Casa Museo came directly from La Gower’s ethnography. Today, under
the leadership of Onofrio Raimondi, the museum continues to attract
visitors from various places, including school children. The Pro Loco
has prepared a pamphlet, with both photos and text, for distribution to
visitors. As part of the text, Enzo Tona selected a series of quotes
Gower Chapman’s ethnography to give meaning to the photographs.
Giuseppe Palumbo is now curator of L’Antiquarium of Milena. The
Antiquarium—named after Arturo Petìx in recognition of his extensive
contributions to the study of the history and pre-history of Milena—
houses a selection of archaeological materials excavated at various
in the vicinity of the community. To coincide with the official opening
of the Antiquarium, on November 28,
the Department of Beni
Culturali ed Ambientali of the Sicilian Regional Government sponsored
the publication of a special volume devoted to the new structure and
contents (see Guzzone 2002).
The text, however, deals not only with archaeological
research and artefacts, but also Gower Chapman’s Milocca.
In addition, Palumbo, in homage to La Gower, has set up a large poster
display with photos, titled A
Sicilian Village, in the
Although neither the Casa Museo nor the Antiquarium was dedicated
to Charlotte Gower Chapman, they provide an important physical space
that commemorates her historical link to the community.
Over the years, the community’s treasures, from both the ancient and
136 Living Memory
more recent periods, have been brought to the attention of a wider
in Italy, and around the world, through newspaper and magazine
articles, travel brochures, and the Internet. In 1990,
Adele Cambria (a journalist) wrote a popular piece about the ancient
tombs discovered in the vicinity of Milena, as well as Charlotte Gower
Chapman’s work in the area. More recently, Milena’s cultural and
legacy has been advertised in the travel and tourism writings of
John Barracough (1998),
Emileo Barbera (1999),
and Milena’s own offical
Web site (www.comune.milena.cl.it). La Gower in one way or another
is noticeably present in all of these writings.
From Milena to Asti and Aix-les-Bains:
La Gower’s Presence in Community Activities
Over the years, Milena experienced a significant out-migration. The
of Asti, in the Piedmont region of Italy; Aix-les-Bains , France; and
Basilea, Switzerland, attracted a significant number of these emigrants
(Bonomo Ingrao 1993;
By the late 1980s,
Milena and its
emigrant communities in these three centers began to engage in serious
efforts to maintain and strengthen their many social and cultural links.
for example, the Administration and Pro Loco of Milena sponsored
a photographic exhibition titled I
Milenesi ad Asti. The
consisted of a collection of Pietro Nicastro photographs depicting
aspects of life for the Milenese of Asti (Bonomo Ingrao 1993).
years later, on June 2,
as part of a series of exchanges between
the two communities, representatives of the city of Asti organized a
presentation for Vito Messana’s translation of the Gower Chapman
text (Bonomo Ingrao 1993:14;
The evening opened
with a slide show featuring Pietro Nicastro’s photographs of Milena,
and was followed with presentations by political figures, Vito Messana,
and Giuseppe Virciglio. The event itself was a success, attracting a
crowd of Milenese emigrants interested in hearing about Milocca and its
history. According to Virciglio (1991:195),
the evening served to highlight
the uniqueness of Milocca’s story, and to valorize people’s sense
of identity as Milochese-Milenese. La Gower and her Milocca,
this special presentation, suddenly became an important bridge
the two communities together. The historical Milocca, and Gower
Chapman’s representation of Milocca,
serve as core symbols, among
others, that help unify the two communities.
Asti also hosted a book launch for Giuseppe Virciglio’s Milocca
in the early 1990s.
Although the book deals primarily with
the Milenese community of Asti, Virciglio devotes a great deal of time
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 137
discussing Gower Chapman’s Milocca.
Representatives from Milena
attended the book launch and, as part of the festivities, Giuseppe P.
Palumbo presented a photographic display—titled Cultura
peasant culture)—depicting various scenes from
Milocca-Milena (see Bonomo Ingrao 1993:14).
His collection included
several photographs taken by La Gower in 1928–29.
These early exchanges
have helped to cultivate important links between Milena and
Asti. The two communities signed an official Friendship
Pact in Asti on
and in Milena on August 13.
Meanwhile, in 1990,
the Milenese community of Aix-les-Bains established
L’Associazione "Milena mia" (Bonomo Ingrao 1993).
of this association was to promote a gemellaggio
between Milena and Aix-les-Bains. The association quickly achieved its
goal; the two communities signed the official papers for the gemellaggio
on October 3,
in Aix-les-Bains, and August 7,
(Bonomo Ingrao 1993).
As in the case of Asti, La Gower featured prominently
in this historical process. In the pre-gemellaggio
period, a delegation
from Aix-les-Bains visited Milena and took part in various local
activities. One of these activities was an important religious service
the community’s main church. During the service, Francesco Falletta,
archpriest of Milena at the time, spoke in favor of the gemellaggio,
commented on the importance of religion to the process (see Bonomo
To give historical weight to his statement, Falletta
provided a direct quote from the Italian version of Charlotte Gower
In orienting the Sicilian in relation to his society it is impossible
to stop with the description of his relationships to his fellow men.
Beyond the world of living human beings there exist for him entities
who are interested in his behavior and endowed with powers
to affect him for good or evil. The most important of these
beings are those whom he associates with the Church: God, the
saints and angels, the souls of the dead, and the devil. (Chapman
see also Bonomo Ingrao 1993:21)
From our point of view, Falletta, using Gower Chapman as an authority
on cultural issues for Milocca-Milena, raised the discussion to a new
level. His statement served to move the gemellaggio
from a purely political
process to one that recognized the importance of both earthly and
spiritual links between the two communities.
The administration in Milena chose to sign the final papers for the gemellaggio
because that year marked the seventieth anniversary
138 Living Memory
of Milocca-Milena’s autonomy as a community. To mark the anniversary
Milena hosted a conference dealing with various factors leading to the
declaration of autonomy. As part of the proceedings, Giambattista Tona
presented a paper on aspects of everyday life in pre-autonomy
Milocca. Tona not only mentions La Gower in the paper, but also makes
use of her text to discuss an unusual attempt by a "self-styled
from Grotte (a nearby town) to declare Milocca an independent republic
This event was not reported in other texts on the history of
In the Shadow of the Mighty Carob
A political struggle began to take shape in Milena in the latter part
2004. For years, the local
administration had worked to secure funds to
establish a zona
artigianale (a small business
area) for the community.
By December 2004,
the administration was ready to begin the process of
expropriating land for the zona
artigianale. The specific
area chosen for
expropriation, however, raised concerns for certain segments of the
Within a short time, a determined and vocal group of individuals
mobilized an opposition movement to block the endeavor. The land
was located only a short distance from the town center, and included a
magnificent carob tree (carrubo)
that existed on the site for over three
hundred years, a number of almond and olive trees of significant age, a
sorb-apple tree (sorbo),
and a small shrine devoted to San Calogero. The
struggle soon became a news item throughout Sicily. Between December
2004 and February 2005,
a series of articles appeared in La
other newspapers of the region (e.g., Mistretta 2004,
2005). Even the students of
the Instituto Comprensivo of
an article about the process in their newsletter Il
grillo parlante (2005a),
which was later reprinted in the La
The mighty carob
was clearly a major focal point of both the struggle, and the media
The struggle took a new turn when Alessandro Pagano (the regional
assessor) and the Soprintendenza per i Beni Culturali ed Ambientali
(the Advisory Council responsible for issues of cultural heritage)
to take an interest in the debate. On February 21,
Regional Authority (Regione Siciliana), with a letter addressed to the
mayor of Milena and the owners of the affected lands, asserted its
to declare the area a cultural heritage site. The opposition movement
had succeeded. The Director General of the Dipartimento Regionale Beni
Culturali ed Ambientali sent out the official notice declaring the carruMigliore,
Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 139
bo and surrounding area an
Ethno-Anthropological Site (Vincolo Etno
Antropologico "Il Carrubo" in Milena) on September 9,
on Decree 6688 of
The letter was accompanied by documents
providing a rationale for the decision, as well as a map drawing
out the limits of the protected area.
What is significant for our purposes is that Charlotte Gower Chapman
was cited repeatedly in both the media coverage and the official
to and from the government agency responsible for heritage
issues. Giuseppe P. Palumbo of the Antiquarium, for example, appealed
to the Soprintendenza to protect the site for historical and cultural
As part of his rationale for protecting the site, he discussed Gower
Chapman’s work in Milocca and the fact that she mentions this
carob in her ethnography—as a place, according to local lore,
frequented by spirits (see Chapman 1971:196–197).
The final document
the Dipartimento Regionale Beni Culturali ed Ambientali distributed in
support of its declaration also mentions this link between the carob
the Gower Chapman ethnography.
Many individuals, using various rationales, took part in the struggle
to protect the carrubo site.
We do not want to overemphasize the importance
of Charlotte Gower Chapman’s ethnography in the struggle. The
point we want to make, through this and some of the earlier examples,
is that La Gower has become one of the voices of authority in
of culture and history in Milena. And, as a voice of authority, her
work can be used, in different contexts, to promote alternative points
view on community issues.
Role of Local Schools in Promoting Awareness of La Gower
For a number of years now, the local school system in Milena has taken
an active part in introducing students to the work of Charlotte Gower
Chapman. Professor Vincenzo Tona, an instructor at the Scuola Media
"Luigi Pirandello," for example, has the children under his
and discuss La Gower’s chapter "The Setting" as part of his
The students, in turn, have produced a number of publications with the
assistance of their instructors. These works often deal with the
and history of Milocca-Milena, making use of material from the Italian
translation of Milocca: A
Sicilian Village (see Alunni
della scuola 1989;
Classe V B Plesso S.G. Bosco 2005–2006).18
More recently, a group of
secondary school students produced a CD with text and images, titled
Diario storico—Ambientale (Alunni
della classe 1b
also makes reference to Gower Chapman and her work in Milocca. In
140 Living Memory
Milena, it has become virtually impossible to discuss cultural and
issues without making reference, in one way or another, to La
Gower and her ethnography.
Professor Vincenzo Nicastro (the scholastic director of schools in
Milena until 2007)
took matters one step further in 2006.
Media "Luigi Pirandello" was ready to celebrate the opening
of its new
multimedia centre. Nicastro proposed that the centre be named after
Charlotte Day Gower Chapman. Local officials accepted the proposal,
and Mayor Giovanni Randazzo, Vincenzo Nicastro, and Professor Rosanna
Manganaro handled the official cutting of the ceremonial ribbon on
At the celebration, Vincenzo Ingrascì announced that we
were in the process of preparing this article for publication, and
Randazzo announced that efforts were being made to have 1,500
of Messana’s translation of the Gower Chapman text reprinted for the
community. The official dedication of the multimedia center to La Gower
was reported in two prominent Sicilian newspapers, the Giornale
and La Sicilia (Bonomo
event was particularly significant because it was the first time
in Milena had been officially named after Gower Chapman.
One year later, Mayor Giovanni Randazzo realized his dream of having
the Messana translation reprinted by the Franco Angeli publishing
house. Copies of the text were distributed among community members,
and a conference was held on June 16,
in honor of the eightieth
anniversary of Charlotte Gower Chapman’s research in the community.
As part of the proceedings a number of dignitaries, scholars, and
made presentations to an appreciative audience. Some of the highlights
these presentations included the following. Onofrio Raimondi, President
of the Pro Loco of Milena, announced that the Casa Museo was being
dedicated officially to Gower Chapman. Vincenzo Ingrascì provided a
biographical sketch of Gower Chapman, and read the opening segment
of this work. Tommaso Palumbo followed with an historical overview of
anthropological research in Milocca-Milena, and raised questions about
how this patrimonio
culturale (cultural heritage)
might be harnessed for
the benefit of the community. Vincenzo Nicastro spoke of the role of
school system in promoting various aspects of Milena’s culture and
including the contributions of La Gower.
Giuseppe Virciglio and Vito Messana traveled to Milena for the
from their homes in the Asti area. Virciglio, as part of his
read three short poems about Charlotte Gower Chapman in Sicilian
dialect. Messana, in contrast, spoke about his collaboration with
Petìx and their efforts to produce the translation of Milocca:
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 141
Village. Antonino Buttitta,
a professor of anthropology at the University
of Palermo, spoke of the work of Italian scholars—such as Salvatore
studies of peasant life in Sicily pre-date
Gower Chapman’s ethnography. He stressed, however, that La Gower
had a keen eye for detail and that she opened an important path for
research. Caterina Pasqualino could not attend the conference, but
her mother traveled from Palermo with Professor Buttitta to be part of
the festivities. Between presentations, Nonò Salamone, a cantastorie
storyteller) from nearby Sutera, performed a concert in Sicilian.
not on the official program, Italo Angilella also spoke at the
His statement dealt with Don Totò Angilella and the failure in
Milena to officially recognize his contributions to the community.
In certain respects, the conference served as an important corrective
the community’s failure to hold a book launch in Milena for the
translation of 1985.
It also served as a vehicle to both honor Charlotte
Gower Chapman’s contribution to the community, and to acknowledge
Messana’s efforts in bringing her work to a local audience in a
that could be easily understood and studied. At the same time, the
provided an avenue for the community to celebrate its own
over the past eighty years. Milena is no longer Milocca,
but Milocca will always be part of Milena.
Early in her career, Charlotte Day Gower displayed signs of becoming a
prominent and distinguished anthropologist. A variety of factors,
contributed in moving her further and further away from the
spotlight. The rediscovery and publication of the Milocca
manuscript, a document some consider a classic ethnography of an early
European society, has had only fleeting and limited impact on the
memory of the anthropological community (especially in North
America). Today, at best, Gower Chapman represents a footnote in
history, a disciplinary ancestor without a following. Any
attempt to explain this fate, must come to terms with not only the
surrounding Gower Chapman’s personal experiences, but also issues
of gender and sexism, academic notions of "publish or perish,"
prejudices concerning acceptable fieldwork locations, the
place of method and theory in disciplinary discourse, the rapid growth
of various fields of study within the sub-discipline of cultural
and the sheer explosion in the number of anthropological publications
produced from year to year.
Today, there are a number of important works that have brought the
142 Living Memory
historical and current contributions of female anthropologists to the
forefront of scholarly attention (e.g., Behar and Gordon 1995;
Cole, and Howard-Bobiwash 1999).
Maria Lepowsky’s article
"Charlotte Gower and the Subterranean History of Anthropology"
given Gower Chapman’s work a second opportunity to reach a new and
growing anthropological audience. We hope this publication will further
strengthen her position as a disciplinary ancestor.
Gower Chapman’s fate in Milocca (now Milena), albeit somewhat
has taken a different turn. La Gower has become a prominent
figure in the minds of some community members, and everyone seems at
least to have heard of the young American woman who visited Milocca
at a time when few strangers, let alone exotic strangers, made their
to the community. Gower Chapman’s manuscript has become both an
entry point into aspects of the life and history of Milocca and, as a
available around the world, a source of community pride.
while walking with a group of friends in Milena, Tommaso
Palumbo stopped suddenly, looked up at the stars, and whispered to
Sam Migliore: "I wonder what Donna Carlotta would think if she
hear us talking about her as we walk here." He said this just as
the spot depicted in her photo of a flock of sheep on Milocca’s
main roadway (see Chapman 1971:
Today, eighty years after
La Gower began research in Sicily, we could ask a similar question.
What might Charlotte Gower Chapman think of all the attention she
and her work are receiving in Milena? What would be her reaction to
hearing Tommaso Palumbo read the following passage from her ethnography
during the 2007 conference
These are the people of Milocca, living in a small isolated community
of recent growth, in which they carry on a fairly selfcontained
existence. By the accident of birth any Sicilian finds
himself projected into a system of relationships with his fellows,
or into conditions which will determine to a large extent
his future attitudes and obligations toward them. The sex of the
individual, his parents and their social position, will affect his
education, his means of livelihood, his standing in the community,
his political affiliations, and his moral code. The geographical
location of his parents’ residence will influence his range of
friendships and his loyalties. (Chapman 1971:26,
And, what would she make of his conclusion that this passage had
the very "genome, the genetic map of the Milocchese
Migliore, Dorazio-Migliore, and Ingrascì 143
We acknowledge and thank the following for their assistance and
the research and writing of this paper: the inhabitants of Milena, Alba
Cipolla, Natasha Damiano, Caroline Daniels, Anna Foschi Ciampolini,
Nunzio Insalaco, Russell King, Calogero Milazzo, Vincenzo Nicastro,
Giuseppe P. Palumbo,
Tommaso Palumbo, Guy Patterson, Adriano Petìx, Carlo Petìx, Onofrio
Wim Ravesteijn, Joe Schenkman, Paolino Schillaci, Carmelo Tona,
Vincenzo Tona, Colleen
van de Voort, and the Ingrascì-Taibi family. The research and writing
was made possible,
in part, through research grants from Kwantlen Polytechnic University
and the Social Science
and Humanities Research Council, Canada.
1. Maria Lepowsky’s fine
article covers a number of important aspects of Charlotte
Gower Chapman’s life, and it will be cited repeatedly in this piece.
We would also
like to acknowledge that her work has led us to a number of the sources
we use in our
2. The title of Gower’s
Social Science Research Council project was "An Ethnological
and Sociological Study of a Typical Sicilian Village Community as a
to the Background of the Problem of the Sicilian Immigrant to the
United States" (Cole
According to Frank Thone (1929:203),
Gower’s long-term plan was to follow
up the study in Sicily with comparative research among Sicilians living
an agricultural settlement in the American South, and, (3)
an American mining community.
To our knowledge this further research did not take place.
3. William Whyte to Robert
Redfield, letter, October 26,
Robert Redfield Papers,
Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library (hereafter
4. See also Eben B. Gower to
Ernestine Bingham, letter, December 17,
of Anthropology Papers, UCL.
5. Charlotte Gower Chapman to
Fred Eggan, letter, December 9,
Fred Eggan Papers,
6. Nash Papers: Box 7,
folder: "Gower." National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian
Institution (hereafter cited as Nash Papers). Gower’s letter to Nash
is dated simply
Since the letter includes a discussion of Sicilian social organization for
manuscript, it must have been written prior to the submission of the
manuscript to the
University of Chicago Press in 1935.
7. J. L. Gillin to Charlotte
Gower (copy for Dean G. C. Sellery), letter, January 7,
College of Letters and Science, Administration (Dean’s Office), General
Correspondence George Sellery, Box 32,
Folder Ga–Gl. University of Wisconsin–Madison
Archives (hereafter cited as General Correspondence George Sellery).
8. J. L. Gillin to G. C.
Sellery, letter, January 7,
General Correspondence George
9. On Fay-Cooper Cole’s
support for Gower, see Charlotte Gower to Fay-Cooper Cole,
letter, March 21,
Department of Anthropology Papers, UCL; Fay-Cooper Cole to
Olin D. Wannamaker (American director, Lingnan University), letter,
of Anthropology Papers, UCL.
10. See also Fay-Cooper Cole
to Eben B. Gower, letter, August 24,
Anthropology Papers, UCL.
11. "Project Camelot was
the result of a government directive: the U.S. Army should
play out its mission to contribute to nation-building projects, which
included actively assisting
governments in their dealing with insurgency problems" (Nader 1997:123–124).
144 Living Memory
12. During 1940–41,
Charlotte Gower (1942)
studied the Chinese language and, "with
the aid of a graduate student . . . collected some material on a small
village outside Hongkong."
She published a couple of articles, in Chinese, for a student journal,
but we have no
additional information on these publications (see Gower 1942;
to a query about publications in a questionnaire for the 1944
Bulletin for the Society of
Woman Geographers, Gower (1944)
mentions that her manuscript "on Hongkong and
its fall" had been "turned down by a number of our leading
publishers." An excerpt from
Milocca: A Sicilian Village (titled
"Marriage in Sicily"), however, did appear in H. Russell
Bernard’s edited volume, The
Human Way: Readings in Anthropology (Gower
13. William Whyte to Robert
Redfield, letter, October 26,
Robert Redfield Papers,
14. Sam Migliore’s arrival
was not a factor in the decision to prepare these altars; the
plans and preparations occurred long before it became public knowledge
that he would be
visiting the community.
15. Alfred S. Schenkman to
Giovanni Cordaro, letter, May 17,
Fred Eggan Papers,
16. Nash Papers.
17. Angelina Lanza Damiani (1879–1936)
was a Sicilian writer whose work touched on
various historical, social, and spiritual themes often related directly
to her experiences on
the island (see Giurintano 2001).
Louise Hamilton (1859–1927)
married Eugenio Caico
and moved to Montedoro, Sicily in 1897.
Her book Sicilian Ways and
published in London in 1910,
was translated into the Italian as Vicende
e Costumi Siciliani
18. Maria Teresa Tona (2006)
also published recently a short book for high school
students in Milena. The book does not make specific reference to Gower
includes her ethnography as part of the bibliography.
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